About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am living in the age of quarantine and a brand-new LPN.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Immanuel: God with us

God is Greater! The electronic sign that now festoons my high school proclaims. This is the photo that accompanies the news article about how Immanuel Schools is making the decision to open for business as usual this August, welcoming unmasked kids on to campus. This is in defiance to the mandate in California to close schools for now, until we can get a handle on this coronavirus and stop the spread. In part, this is how we stop the spread—by keeping people apart, keeping out of shared enclosed rooms with people who are not in our own households. But Immanuel proclaims: God is Greater.

The next day after they opened, I watched with bemusement and chagrin while Governor Newsom addressed the administrators of my high school, now a K-12, on national news. Wow, my little Central Valley Christian high school in national news. What a way of gaining notoriety. How embarrassing. 

Newsom seemed to be a little at a loss for words. Shocked that a school would be this cavalier, as to not only put kids and administrators at risk, but also flagrantly break the rules that he’d set with the guidance of top health experts. It is shocking! But, you know, God is greater.

As the months have dragged on, I have also gotten tired. Tired of being cooped up, of not seeing friends and family as we’d like. I’ve watched with envy as the rest of the world handles this disease so much better than we have—not perfectly, as humans are humans after all. But as my Bible teacher—from Immanuel—wrote to me from New Zealand where he now lives, New Zealand trusted its public health officials and followed the guidelines. And then they had no cases and were able to fully open up, with no precautions at all. They are, of course, different from most places in the world, as they are on an island and can fully keep out all outsiders and control who comes in. Fully two months ago another friend who moved to New Zealand was telling us about the country reopening. They quarantine anyone who is coming home—truly quarantine, as they are required to stay in a facility that is supervised—and they do not have to take any precautions at all anymore. It is not a part of their life except for what they hear from outside their borders. 

I am tired because people like those making decisions at Immanuel are prolonging this whole thing. Those of us who are being responsible are bearing the brunt of their irresponsibility. 

God is greater. In the Central Valley, we never got any snow, so we didn’t have snow days. But the fog was a huge problem. Sometimes I couldn’t see across the street. I once was on a date and the driver had his door open to watch the yellow lines, since he couldn’t see the road in front of his car. The schools were delayed when this happened—we had Foggy Day Schedule. Sometimes it was canceled altogether. 

Was God not greater then? 

Seems like every year there was a 100 car pileup on the freeway, because of the fog. It was not messing around—it was dangerous. 

Was God greater? 

But why is this about whether God is greater? That is really not what is at issue here. God gave us brains to be able to reason. They are there to help us make good decisions. We don’t decide to quarantine because of fear, or because we don’t trust God. We do it because it is wise, even though oh so hard. Fog is dangerous. Covid is dangerous. 

And God gave us the capacity for compassion. For love. For caring about the human family. While it is hurting themselves, it is also hurting all of those around when they decide to flaunt the rules. The rules are there to help us be loving and compassionate to our communities. By flaunting the rules, they are saying that they don’t care about their communities. God is greater. 

To a large extent, this is an unsurprising development. The church of my childhood is one of blind trust. Supposedly in God. But who interprets what God is saying, well, that’s not something we talk about. 

I have had this in my head to write since I saw that article. But today I saw that Immanuel Schools is raising money to cover legal fees. Yeah, no way am I donating, Immanuel. God is greater. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simpler Shepherd's Pie

I used to make shepherd's pie back when I was vegetarian, and I made a really good vegetarian version.  I used lentils which I thought was brilliant!  I still think it's brilliant so I still include them, but I no longer make the vegetarian version.  And I used to make it using about 5 different pots and pans, not to mention my mixer bowl.  I don't have time for all those pots and pans anymore!  I now make it much simpler, and I think it's probably just as good.  You can substitute any vegetable that you want.

And oh, yeah, this is probably more like the Hamburger Pie that I grew up with than shepherd's pie.  It doesn't have the traditional gravy, and instead uses tomatoes.  Which in my mother's version, was more of a cream of tomato soup (but not the nasty canned kind).  I just used tomatoes tonight, so that I would not have to dirty more pans.

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup lentils (I like the French green ones)
1 28 ounce can of tomatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced or diced
about 8 cups of trimmed, cut-up green beans
3-4 large potatoes
sour cream to taste
butter to taste
salt and pepper to taste
milk or buttermilk or half and half
about 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the ground beef in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, and while it's cooking add the onion, garlic and the lentils.  When the beef is browned, add the tomatoes.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the lentils, carrots, and green beans are cooked through.  Salt and pepper this mixture.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a pan with water.  When they are tender, mash.  You can mash them right in the pan if you have a masher, but I like to use my kitchen aid mixer.  Add sour cream, butter, salt and pepper, and whip, adding milk as needed.  It will really depend on the potatoes as to how much milk they will absorb.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture, right in the pan if it is oven-proof.  Sprinkle cheese over the top and bake at 400 degrees until bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Oh my goodness, of course I should update you all (all two of you) while I am here.  Because you never know how long it'll be before I come back here!

I have completely finished with classes, as of last spring, and am now in an apprenticeship!  I'm at a birth center, which is an hour+ away from my home.  No, I am not planning on relocating....Zach is too happy where he's at for me to do that!  More on that later.  The birth center apprenticeship is wonderful and challenging--just as it should be!  I have been to one birth so far--but that's about to change drastically.  Come the middle of December I will be neck-deep in births.  Christmas?  What's that?

Zach is loving school at Benson Polytechnic High School.  He is thinking about changing his "major" (yes, they offer majors in high school!) to communications, instead of electrics which is what he entered this school for.  He is really getting into computer programming, which is cool.  His sophomore year is decidedly more challenging than his freshman year, which I think is good!  He had an awesome freshman year to bolster him up and I hope he can rise to the challenges of this year.

Aaron is away at college!  (Okay, right at this moment he is home from college for Thanksgiving break.)  He is loving it.  I am adjusting.  It's kind of a weird adjustment.  I don't miss him like I thought I would--he was just so ready to go on to the next phase of life that I can't wish anything else for him.  But the dynamics at home changed.  And visiting my college kid at college?  Weird.  Just weird.  Oh well.  Something to get used to in the whole cycle of life.

Two days at church

Two different churches, but I spent time at church both Saturday and Sunday this weekend (which had become a rarity for me).

I was reminded yesterday while at the retreat given by Fr. Michael Oleksa of one reason why I love the Orthodox church: the belief in the salvation of the whole world, not just human beings (like the tradition I came out of as a child believes).  The whole creation.  God so loved *the world.*  Not just humans, but animals, plants, rocks, trees, everything.  And we are all saved together, not individually.  This is why I love my church.  We also discussed with him the ideas that fasting, which is what the church is doing right now during the Nativity fast, would be best adapted to the individual culture it finds itself in.  In Alaska, where Fr. Michael lives, the food that is cheap or even free is meat.  Fruits and vegetables are only come by at a premium.  To say that Orthodox Christians should only eat the most expensive foods during a fast is a little crazy, bordering on total financial ruin for some families, and certainly is not making use of local foods.

Fr. Michael also talked extensively on adapting to the culture which we are evangelizing, rather than expecting that culture to adapt to us (as has been done by missionaries in the past and present).  He told us many stories of the Alaskan native American people, and rather than seeing them as pagan and heathen and we must teach them the right way, he sees them as illustrating, beautifully, the love of God and the way we should be in the world.  I love that.

Alas; because I don't love everything about how my local parish plays out, and I am not accepted by my own church currently, I attend the Episcopal church sometimes.  And today I was reminded that I love imperfection.  Okay, I don't always experience it as love.  I was irritated that the usually perfect service at the cathedral was marred.  The first reader stumbled a lot.  The second reader obviously had laryngitis or something affecting his speaking voice which was very distracting.  Even the new priest was distracting--her singing voice is not up to the par I am used to in a good priest.  But even as I was bitching in my own mind about these things, I reminded myself that, hey, isn't this what I believe in?  I believe that all of God's people have a place in the participation of God's liturgy.  We don't have to be perfect.  This is what I believe, that our best attempts at worshiping God are good in God's sight.  Even if I sometimes have to remind myself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Aaron's blog post

Ha! Now that I've started blogging again maybe I won't ever shut up! ;-) Thank you, you three who are still reading, for your wonderful supportive comments. :-)

I just found this blog post of Aaron's again. He started a blog a long time ago and only posted three times....but I love this description of how to express oneself as a transgendered person. Enjoy!

A's Asylum

How The Kids Are Doing

I was so surprised to find I do still have readers! You must have me on Google Reader or something similar. So, hi Mimi and Monica! And anyone else who is still reading! Maybe I'll even have time to start blogging regularly again when I finish school.

Monica wondered how the kids are doing and it seems high time for an update on what they're up to. I'm going to start with Zachary because he's the easier one to give an update on.

Zachary began school after homeschooling for the first 12 years of his life in sixth grade. He really loved it and had a teacher that really was awesome and nurtured him and understood he needed a little extra. I will always be grateful to Ned for being an awesome first teacher for a homeschooler-turned-sixth grader. But when he got into middle school, he seemed to flounder a bit. He didn't do so well in school, and really panicked over his homework. There was one teacher who took him under her wing, Pat, and I will also always hold a special place in my heart for Pat. She was his science teacher and really encouraged the scientist in Zachary, and that piece of him really flourished. We began to decide that the school he was at really wasn't the place for him to be in high school, though (it was a K-12, rare in urban areas) and started to look at Benson. Benson is the polytechnic magnet school in Portland, and Zac fell in love when a rep came to his school. Oh, the things he could do at Benson! He could do all the stuff he'd been fiddling with at home there, plus way more! He could learn manufacturing and auto shop and electronics and so much more. So, he applied, and with fear and trepidation we waited, along with the other 399 kids who had applied, to see if he'd get one of the 240 spots. And he did! These days I am in constant awe that my kid who seemed to be floundering in middle school gets remarks from his teachers they wish they had a hundred Zachs, that he always does great, etc. etc. etc.! It's so great to watch him do what he really loves. He is doing well even in the non-science-y classes, like English and Health. I really had thought it would take him a bit to adjust to life in high school, especially going from a tiny school to a relatively huge one, but Zach has just stepped into it like he was meant for it.

So, the older child. Whom I probably last referred to on this blog as Carissa. Back in late summer 2009, Carissa came to me and told me that she identifies as a male person. I was quite taken aback--I had no idea that this was going on with her. She/he was quite certain of it from that time on, and I asked her to keep thinking about it and make sure. As I worked through it all, I slowly began to adjust my thoughts around who this person was. And I realized that whether she or he, whether Carissa or Aaron (as he began to call himself), this person is still my kid, this person is still someone I love, this person is still the same person.

I encouraged Aaron to express himself however he wished. I truly do not believe that there is any problem with playing around with who you are. Many people try on different identities, different types of people--hippie, straight-laced, this look or that, whatever. A different gender? Why does it matter to us so very much how one expresses their gender? I began to face this issue, and have mostly found acceptance, but it is so ingrained in us that gender is set, you can't change it, etc. To which I say, you can't very easily change your body, this is true. Though it can be done. But why can't gender and biology be expressed differently? Why do we feel such rigid roles in gender?

I have to admit to you all that I was not very open to transgender issues before this. I didn't understand it. I didn't know why anyone would want to be someone other than who they were born as. I didn't know why men would want to be what I thought looked like fake women (male to female is much more visible--biological men don't "pass" as women as easily as the other way around). But I remained open to learning, and I think I am beginning to understand.

Aaron has also had quite a transition in school. I thought the small K-12 that they both started at after homeschooling was so great for them, such a good fit. Maybe it was at the beginning. But Aaron also began to flounder there, and we began to look at other options. What we ended up with is the High School Completion program at Portland Community College. It is an awesome program and he is LOVING it and doing so well! He is looking at colleges to attend next year--well, really just one. He's already got his heart set on Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, just two hours north of us.

We have gone through some pretty dark times in the last few years. I feel like we've to a large extent come out on the other side, back into the light. I'm not finished yet--when will that ever happen?--but I've stopped thinking I'd surely done something wrong as a parent. Well, more often than not I don't think that anymore. What more can a mother ask for?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Leaving My Comfort Zone

I've been thinking a lot about isolation and question-asking and asking for knowledge from others lately. I've had lots of thoughts about how I have always been a pretty self-made person, and didn't ask for help from anyone. I thought I could figure things out myself, and that this was really preferable to asking others. But as I'm finishing up my time at midwifery school, and approaching an apprenticeship, I am realizing that asking for a little help, which sometimes just comes as asking for information, is such a good thing. I may be a little slow at learning this lesson, but I am learning it! Asking and putting myself out there just opens things up a little, and helps me figure out my next step, and then if I keep going with that train of knowledge then I can end up in the place that I wanted to be, or even somewhere that I didn't expect but is an awesome place to be.

It doesn't always happen that way, of course. I recently made a query into something that meant something to me, only to be slapped back down and punished for it, and it also had repercussions on those I love. It was painful and difficult to deal with. Yet, I can't say I am sorry for having asked it. (I sure was at the time, though!) I am glad to have pushed against that wall and found it to be unbudging, so that I can move on from there and figure out my next step. I would not have known it was unbudging if I hadn't tried it.

Sometimes asking questions just leads to dead ends. No gain, no loss, It still shows me as an inquisitive person, though, and I get practice at asking questions, and learn the right questions to ask for the situation.

So, there's some thoughts for ya on a Wednesday morning, from someone who hasn't blogged in a hundred years, and probably has no readers left. :-) Oh well, it is still good for me to write these things out for myself!